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A tent is preferable to a shelter for some

September 20, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- "If I'm not working, I'm not living," Klaus Kneeland said from inside his tent.

Kneeland, who last winter said he slept during the day and worked at night, didn't want to come out of his tent, but consented to be interviewed.

He said he was making $8 an hour cleaning for a local business, for which he works 40 hours a week.

He found that job after spending almost a year unemployed. He received unemployment payments, but child support was being deducted, so he didn't have enough money to afford a place to live, he said.

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Trying to get a job can be tough.

"You have 100 people applying for one job right now," he said.

For a time, he worked at a home-improvement store, then at a warehouse, and has gotten jobs by the day.

But he hadn't been able to afford housing or "anything for myself in any consistent manner. So I decided to pitch me a tent."

He was hoping to get public housing and submitted his pay stubs to show what he earns.

He reads the newspaper and talks to a lot of people.

"I have to stay informed," he said.

Kneeland said he likes to keep busy.

"I'm not sucking down bottles of whiskey and vodka every day," said Kneeland, who admitted to drinking six or eight bottles of beer on a Saturday night.

Originally from Baltimore County, Md., Kneeland ended up in Hagerstown around 2003 because he wanted to relocate after his 15-year marriage ended. He said he had been sober for years, but after the divorce, he started drinking again.

That first year, Kneeland stayed at the REACH shelter for about two months. He's also tried staying at the Hagerstown Rescue Mission.

But at REACH, he said, he "couldn't deal with 50 different men" and couldn't get to sleep there.

In the woods, he said, he found peace and quiet, "as long as you don't run into all the drunks."

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